July 17th, 2011
Matthew 13: 24 – 30 6 – 43
This week we took a day trip to Furnace Town. We walked and learned and for one afternoon were propelled back to another time. Thanks to the efforts of present sponsors and their belief that the history of a small steel producing community from the 1800’s is important for today’s culture we had a glimpse into the twenty year life cycle of a community of people. Our tour was completed at the site of the home or kitchen garden section of the town. I was impressed by the keeper of the garden and his knowledge. How necessary for life it was that the tenders of that garden be able to tell the weeds from the good plants.
In another experience this weekend I learned of noxious------plants; plants that have the potential to kill. The bearded darnel I discovered is known as the “devil weed”. Its roots suck up precious nutrients and water making it impossible to root this weed out without destroying the good crop. The Bible calls this weed “tares”; Jesus mentions it in his parables. Bearded darnel or tares look exactly like good wheat until it bears seed. Then the harvester realizes why this weed is called a devil weed. It can cause hallucinations and even death if ingested. In today’s parable Jesus takes us back into the growing field to help hose with ears to listen to get an understanding of evil.
Last week’s message was fun and easy……just go and sow good seed! This week Jesus goes to the darker side of his parables and we hear about intentional evil in the world and how we have no choice but live among it. We are, however. To call evil for what it is. Last week’s story was a parable of happenstance; what happens when seed is simply sown, when the Word of God is simply brought forward into the world. Today’s parable takes us to in intentional evil that is meant to destroy and Jesus tells us to call a spade a spade when it comes to that evil. Jesus takes a firm, prophetic approach and underscores both the necessity and difficulty of this task in our individual and community lives.
Sometimes our lives resemble the farmer tending the kitchen garden in Furnace town with good plants and noxious weeds fighting for a place in our hearts, minds and souls. In Romans 7:15 we are reminded by St. Paul that, ”I do not do what I want but I do the very thing I hate.” In today’s second lesson from Romans 8: 12 – 25 St. Paul reminds us of the Holy Spirit’s power and desire to call us to our place a children of God and therefore, not to be encouraged, influenced or choked off by the flesh and the world. The key to living with evil within and without is to first call evil just what it is……EVIL. One of the gifts of the twelve step program associated with AA and ALANON is how these steps help people how have addiction problems reclaiming the good in their lives by first declaring what is bad. Step one confesses the powerless of an individual over alcohol and how because of that evil their lives have become unmanageable. In step four the alcoholic or person suffering from addiction is called to give a moral inventory and sort out exactly what Jesus calls us to today, the sorting out of the wheat and tares within us. These my friends are bold steps, difficult steps yet our Lord call us to take them for the sake of our lives and the life of the community we called to serve. Jesus knows that an infected heart can often be incased and hidden in a lovely, pleasing external presence (wolves in sheep clothing!) can kill a community over time. Just ask anyone who has lived through a church crisis or family schism. Just ask anyone who hears the Good News of Jesus Christ on Sunday morning and then engages in gossip Friday night. Jesus warns us against tares and noxious-------, people leading other people astray. He warns us today my friends “Don’t do it!” Don’t destroy the Kingdom of God found within you which is to be the bearer of good fruit for the world.”
Jesus calls us to look hard for antagonists to God’s mission and call evil for what it is. He also wants us to be cautious against a rush to judgment remembering that we cannot always tell initially a good plant from a noxious weed, loyal opposition from heresy, healthy conflict from destructive antagonism. Eventually Jesus sites in his parable that when the harvest comes we will see the differences in the fruit that has been born. This sight takes patience and time.
. He also reminds us that evil can and does win out in the world and in our lives for a time ….only for a time. Jesus tells us that evil will eventually play its last card. Jesus completes this parable with a message of eternal hope in God the one who created the first garden in its pure state and will complete his harvesting judgment and will win out over the great evils in the world. God will do the final sorting of the wheat and the tares. God remains in charge of his garden, its good plants and its noxious weeds……”….and though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.” This is our message of hope God yesterday, today and for all time…..thanks be to God!